7 Types of Boundaries and How to Set Each One

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Looking for a genuine way to advocate for yourself that supports your well-being? It is time to set boundaries. And did you know that there are actually 7 main types of boundaries that you can (and should!) set?

Yes! Although this is easier said than done, it’s imperative that we all set boundaries – for our physical, emotional, and mental health.

Did you know? There are seven types of boundaries which create clear expectations in your relationships.

I was once a textbook people-pleaser: quick to say yes and cater to others, even at the expense of my health and well-being. With no sense of setting boundaries, I was justifying being accommodating and agreeable as a way to feel valued and loved.

For me personally, my eagerness to please other people stemmed from wanting to be seen as a good sister, a good partner, a good co-worker and a good person.

This notion of someone being overly willing to please makes sense, according to this study published in 1969, proposing a “psychological phenomenon” coined The Benjamin Franklin Effect. The Benjamin Franklin Effect states that if you ask me for a favor and I do it for you, I’ll have a heartwarming feeling towards you.

Receiving the effects of heartwarming feelings from doing favors or fulfilling the requests of others can be achieved by simply setting a boundary. In this article, we’ll explore why we need boundaries and how boundaries can empower us individually and impact our relationships.

We will also establish the seven types of boundaries to feel secure: physical boundaries, sexual boundaries, emotional boundaries, spiritual boundaries, financial boundaries, time boundaries and non-negotiable boundaries, and share examples of how to set each of them.
 

 
 

Why Do We Need Boundaries? And Why Is It Important to Set Them?

Boundary setting is a self-care practice to protect your energy, time, and emotional and physical well-being. For our relationships to improve, we need to set boundaries because they keep us safe, establish our sense of self and remind us of what is important to us.
 

Any type of boundary setting is a self-care practice.

 
By setting boundaries, you can better manage your relationships, day-to-day negotiations and social interactions instead of committing your all to the whims and wishes of others. You are more in touch or in tune with your needs and more mindful in noticing when you need to set boundaries to feel rooted and content.
 

What Happens When We Do NOT Set Any Type of Boundaries?

We have a lot on our plate on any given day. Still, for one reason or another (seeking approval and likeability is often the underlying reason), we agree to take on more, knowing we cannot tackle another thing. Although it seems impossible to set a boundary, it is problematic when we do not.

At this unsurprising fact of finding it difficult to set a boundary, Psychology Today offers two key reasons that support why we don’t: we fear conflict and disappointing others. We risk experiencing burnout and resentment by consistently catering to the needs of others and sacrificing our feelings by putting theirs above our own.

Due to this, we often say yes, even if stretching ourselves thin for someone or something else is not in our best interest.

Do you often say yes, when you really want to say no? Learn How to Say No and Set Healthy Boundaries With These 10 Tips
 

What Happens When We DO Set Boundaries?

By mastering the crucial skill of setting boundaries (and knowing the different types of boundaries), you show respect for your time, energy and most importantly yourself when you admit and accept that you can not do it all.

It is easy to realize this, but it isn’t always easy to clarify which specific type of boundary you need to set.

According to the licensed psychotherapist, Dr. Sharon Martin, MSW, LCSW, who specializes in helping individuals struggling with perfectionism, codependency and people-pleasing, she states:
 

“Boundaries are guidelines and expectations that we set in relationships. Both parties understand what behavior is acceptable and not tolerated.”

 
With this knowledge, Dr. Sharon Martin shares the seven types of boundaries we all need to set.
 
 

There Are 7 Types of Boundaries You Need to Set. Here’s What They Are and How to Set Them:

Dr. Martin’s struggle to feel “good enough” inspired her desire to help others learn how to accept and love themselves. Her battle led to her passion for providing self-improvement tools through positive psychology, mindfulness, self-compassion and healthy habits.

One of those tools is her writing The Better Boundaries Workbook, which identifies the seven different types of boundaries we should set: physical boundaries, sexual boundaries, emotional or mental boundaries, spiritual or religious boundaries, financial and material boundaries, time boundaries and non-negotiable boundaries.

A way to identify the type of boundary you need to set is to think about the areas of your life where you feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable and resentful. You can do this by asking yourself one simple question that helps with not only setting boundaries but asking for them to be respected. Shift away from resentful feelings and ask yourself:
 

“What do I need right now?”

 
It is important to ask this question when setting your boundaries because it helps create clear expectations and responsibilities, as well as set the precedence to what you will tolerate and how you want to be treated.

So, when you figure out what type of boundary needs to be set, how do you get better at setting it?

Here are the seven common types of boundaries and several examples of setting them to support you in this process.
 

1. Physical Boundaries

Physical boundaries protect your physical body and your right to have your physical needs, such as shelter, food and rest, met. Physical boundaries also protect your personal space, your right to privacy, and your right to be or not be touched.

Setting this type of boundary informs others how to physically touch you (if they are allowed), how much privacy you prefer, and how to treat you while in your personal space. Setting these boundaries helps protect your rights by clearly defining that your body and space belong to you and only you.

How to Set a Physical Boundary:

  • Stepping further away or kindly asking someone uncomfortably close to you to move
  • Establishing house rules or expectations for cleaning, grocery shopping and guests visiting
  • Informing guests that you do not keep or consume alcohol in your home

 

 
 

2. Sexual Boundaries

The second type of boundary is sexual boundary. Protecting your right to consent to any form of sexual activity is setting a sexual boundary. They protect your right to inquire about your partner’s sexual history and your definition of intimacy. Sexual boundaries set the standards of how you want to be intimate and with whom, along with how often, when and where.

How to Set a Sexual Boundary:

  • Stating your personal preference of not having sex on the first date
  • Sharing how and where you like to be touched
  • Reporting unwarranted sexual comments

 

Let’s Talk Sexual Consent: Here’s What You Need to Know
 

3. Emotional or Mental Boundaries

Emotional or mental boundaries are set to protect your right to feel the way you feel and think the way you think, without being criticized or invalidated. Setting emotional and mental boundaries also protects your right to care for your own feelings without taking care of someone else’s.

Since emotional boundaries differentiate between your feelings and the feelings of others, this sets a precedent that you are not responsible for how others feel and are only accountable for how you feel.

By setting emotional and mental boundaries, you are keeping yourself safe by respecting each other’s feelings, not oversharing personal information and avoiding inappropriate conversations.

How to Set an Emotional or Mental Boundary:

  • Talking with your spouse about how embarrassed and powerless you feel when they scold you in front of the kids, and you want them to stop
  • Telling your parents that you will only bring your young children to their house once they put a gate in front of their stairs or a fence around their yard
  • Being understanding and calmly explaining if a friend or an acquaintance unintentionally triggers you by their remarks

 

4. Spiritual or Religious Boundaries

Spiritual or religious boundaries are essential for your spiritual health. Setting this type of boundary is an extension of our First Amendment right that guarantees freedoms concerning religion and exercising it. Those with spiritual or religious boundaries are aware of their right to worship as they wish and practice how they want.

How to Set a Spiritual or Religious Boundary:

  • Bowing your head and saying a silent prayer at the table before everyone eats
  • Having a partner that respects your right to attend church and fellowship
  • Respecting your partner for not sharing the same beliefs as yours and not infringing your beliefs upon theirs

 

Want to be spiritually healthy? Here are 7 Ways to Improve Your Spiritual Health
 

5. Financial and Material Boundaries

The fifth type of boundary is financial and material, which protect your financial resources and possessions. Setting a financial and material boundary is respecting your right to spend your money and utilize your materials how you see fit and refraining from giving or loaning it out if you’d rather not. These boundaries also include your right to be paid fairly by an employer.

How to Set a Financial and Material Boundary:

  • Sticking with your budget by bringing your lunch to work instead of ordering out with the rest of the office
  • Firmly requesting that your sibling or friend not borrow your car without asking
  • Having a personal policy of not lending money to friends or family members

 

6. Time Boundaries

Setting time boundaries is a way of protecting how you prefer to spend your time. With time boundaries, you are releasing yourself from doing things you do not want to do, being around those who do not value your time and being overworked at your job.

How to Set a Time Boundary:

  • Reserving your evenings for family time
  • Not responding to work emails first thing in the morning
  • Setting your phone on “Do Not Disturb” during certain times of the day

 

7. Non-Negotiable Boundaries

The final type of boundary to set are the ones that are non-negotiable to you. Non-negotiable boundaries are those you consider to be “deal-breakers” or things you absolutely must abide by to feel grounded and secure.

Non-negotiable boundaries usually pertain to feeling safe from physical violence, emotional abuse, alcohol or drug use, infidelity and all other situations that can threaten your life and well-being.

How to Set a Non-Negotiable Boundary:

  • Requiring faithfulness in a relationship and ending it if your partner is cheating or having an affair
  • Taking mental health breaks when the workload is demanding and draining your energy
  • Setting aside time to effectively rest so that you can feel recharged and ready to take care of others in your household or work environment

Like all the other boundaries, we need non-negotiable ones. Still, we must also be mindful of how many of these we set in this category. A non-negotiable boundary is only as effective as the person willing to follow through on enforcing it; otherwise, it loses its effect of nourishing your well-being.

Embody These 30 Self-Care Non-Negotiables for a Calmer You
 
 

Which Type of Boundary Do You Need to Set Right Now?

Prioritizing yourself takes practice. Setting boundaries makes it possible.

After learning the seven types of boundaries, hopefully, you have gained a greater sense of clarity as to how boundary setting is a tool to protect your energy, time and well-being as a means of practicing self-care.

When you think about it, setting a boundary is a human right you should not feel guilty about enforcing. A right that is worth defending whenever it is disrespected, ignored or misused. Hold yourself accountable by establishing these boundaries to put yourself first, sustain your individuality and nourish your well-being.

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